"There's no silver bullet or magic formula for doing this kind of business well," says Restaurant Brands chief executive Russel Creedy when I ask him the secret to his successful turnaround of the fast food franchisor.

"It's a very competitive, well-established business and it can be a bit of a grind at times."

Creedy — this year's Deloitte/Service Now CEO of the Year — has certainly delivered great returns for investors.

In fact shares in the company are worth around 900 per cent more now than they were when he took over as chief executive in 2007.


"It's been a combination of having a very good management team in place and managing the business well. That's the most obvious side," he says. "This is a business where you've got to manage detail; you've got to move it inch by inch over time."

Creedy says he has changed his leadership style a bit over the years and that has allowed him to take a more strategic view — something that has enabled Restaurant Brands to make expansive — and thus far highly lucrative — moves in Australia and Hawaii.

"That's absolutely accelerated the growth. We finished last year with around $740m sales and it's really going to be into that mid-$800 million level this year — $830-$840m or so by the time we've finished."

In fact Restaurant Brands — franchise holder for KFC, Pizza Hut, Carl's Jr. and Taco Bell — has been so successful it has attracted the attention of Mexico's Finaccess Capital, which had offered $881.5 million to buy 75 per cent stake.

The $9.45 a share offer represents 24 per cent premium on the share price of $7.60 when the market closed on October 17 — it values Restaurant Brands at $1.18 billion.

Creedy says that's not something he can comment on at this point.

The ongoing expansion into Australia and Hawaii has been the highlight for Creedy over the past year.

It's gone well — something that hasn't always been the case when New Zealand companies venture offshore.


"Certainly there was a bit of risk, but we took a very much measured approach. The Australian expansion was just looking for growth corridors and taking the opportunities as they arose… and just planning to be ready for them when they came up.

"Hawaii was the real stretch of our imagination: to get offshore and get into another currency… which has frankly worked out pretty darn well with the depreciation of the NZ dollar."

Creedy says with the evolution of his leadership style over the years, a strong team in place and local operations going well he's been able to spend more time on strategic thinking.

"I look at it as sitting on the edge of the pond as opposed to being inside the pond," he says. "It's something I read a long time ago. You're on the edge of the pond so you can see the ripples and where they are travelling to, as opposed to being in it where the ripple happens to you."

That kind of approach is more crucial than ever as technology accelerates the pace of change.

"In the old days, when I did the MBA and the way most people learned at school, it was that the leader always set direction, aligned the people and resources and the business provided motivation. I think that is a pretty static view nowadays," he says.

"Its not applicable to the way business moves so quickly. Being very nimble and being able to visualise what change could look like in the future is a style I've brought to the business."

Creedy says Restaurant Brands, like most businesses now, is facing constant disruptive change:

"Our industry is no different," he says.

He draws on the US military term VUCA world:

"Its volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous," he says. "Workforces are changing all the time; technology is changing all the time."

He cites Uber Eats and Menulog as examples of businesses "eating our lunch with deliveries".

"Food all over the place," he says. "It's a fast-moving world that we're living in, and we just have to cope with that level of change."

Creedy is South African by birth; he and his family have been in New Zealand for almost 25 years. Leaving to escape the violence and political unrest they witnessed, he and his wife Linda arrived with two young children, no jobs or local contacts. They were industrial chemists and it was tough finding jobs.

Creedy ended up working as the distribution operations manager for Linfox Logistics for seven years before being hired by Restaurant Brands as the supply chain manager in 2001.

Restaurant Brands underperformed in those years, struggling with the Eagle Boys pizza chain in Australia, a lack of local interest in the Starbucks coffee franchise and negative perceptions around the KFC brand.

Creedy says when he looks back on his arrival in New Zealand he feels "absolutely blessed, lucky, fortunate".

"You've got to pinch yourself now and again to say it's been a fantastic journey and a wonderful country," he says. "It was certainly the right decision to have made."

Restaurant Brands shareholders would surely agree.